Cape Town - Restitution for Khoi and San descendants should speak to how they were disowned and the government must take the views of Khoi and San communities and leaders into account when crafting exceptions to land restitution legislation.
This was the view expressed by most of the Khoi and San leaders who were delegates to the provincial Khoi and San consultative workshop on the exceptions programme.
The meeting was convened by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform at Arniston this weekend.
Francisco McKenzie, the chairman of the Western Cape Khoisan legislative council, said the government must be fully cognitive of “the fact that Jan van Riebeeck did not come to South Africa in 1912 or 1955” and should therefore recognise the status of “first nation aboriginal people” who are living in the land of their ancestors.
“The history of South Africa is characterised by brutal conquest and the systematic dispossession from the indigenous people through colonialism and apartheid.
“Large-scale dispossessions of land, livestock and livelihoods of the indigenous people were carried out through wars, conquest, treaty and treachery,” government official Thami Mdontswa said.
He presented a plan which would see the state purchasing land identified by indigenous communities as part of the exceptions, and would involve setting up beneficiary communities holding title to the land.
He said there was serious “political will” within the government to address the restitution of the Khoi and San land and this could even mean “dealing with section 25 of the constitution, which deals with the sunset clauses”.
He noted delegates’ concerns that there were recognition and resources “for black traditional leaders including the Xhosa and Zulu and other kings” and that steps needed to be taken to ensure “all Khoi and San leaders will be recognised until they are equal with black traditional leaders”.
In addressing the issue of the need for land claimants to prove their claims, Mdontswa noted: “The Khoi and San will no longer need to submit proof of ancestral ownership when they make a land claim, but must just provide a link to that land.”
Mdontswa used the example of a 125-year-old church in Jackson Drift in Gauteng, where the community has lodged a claim for the church.
“This church was on land that was taken back before 1913, but where people still had links to the church.
“The Department of Rural Development decided to buy the land and restore it to the people, the same as in District Six.”
“There must be a recognition of the competent tribal and aboriginal authorities who have the power and the competence and can legitimately act to protect the interests of indigenous people” said Christo Frans, chairman of the provincial house of traditional leaders.
Chantal Bruckner, Western Cape representative of the National Khoi and San Council said delegates “should not put the cart before the horse”.
“There is no provision for land restitution by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform if there is no legislative recognition of the Khoi and San in the constitution,” the NKC leader said.